|View from Piazza del Popolo
|The Colosseum from the inside
We had booked a hotel near the Termini station in central Rome and took the direct Leonardo Express train, from the Rome Fiumicino airport to Termini for 14 Euros. The ride was about 30 min.
We started off exploring Rome by a visit to the viewpoint above the Piazza del Popolo. This Piazza is about 2 km walk from the town center, but the viewpoint at the top is worth the walk and the climb to get there. Especially, if you go in the evening you see Rome and the Vatican against the backdrop of the setting sun.
|Arch of Constantine
|View from the dome
|The St. Peter's Basilica
|Inside St Peter's Basilica
|On the way to the dome
|Inside the Vatican museums
|Basilica from the main complex
|David by Michelangelo
After our visit to the Vatican, we boarded an Italo train from Rome to Florence, in the evening.The journey by the super fast train takes about 1 hour 15 minutes, with speeds of up to 250 km/hr at times. Our hotel, Nuovo Italia, was fortunately just a 5 min walk from the Train station.
|View from the Bell tower
|The dome as seen from the bell tower
|View from Piazza Michelangelo
|At Fattoria Poggio Alloro
|Setting for our lunch, with the town of
San Gimignano in the background
|Leaning tower of Pisa
Our final stop was to Pisa. Here, we got a close view of the iconic Leaning Tower.
|Grand Canal in Venice
|Lunch - Octopus, squid and potatoes
|St. Mark's Basilica
|Rialto Fish Market
|Basilica Salute at night
Evening we boarded the flight to Paris, bidding adieu to Italia, for the time being.
PS: Venice gondola rides normally cost €80, but can cost more. However, if you share it or do it as part of tour, it's more reasonable, price wise.
|Palace of Versailles
|Main fountain at Palace of Versailles
We landed late night the previous day at Paris's Orly Airport and after, a "suspicious item left in baggage area" causing a delay of about an hour; we took a taxi (€35) to our AirBnB host's place in Paris's 15th district.
|Hall of Mirrors, location of the
World Word I treaty
Versailles using their official website.
|Gardens at Versailles
Versailles was the seat of political power in the Kingdom of France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved the royal court from
|The Classic 2CV car
ainst the Monarchy and Church. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy.
This is also the site for the Treaty of Versailles, that was signed to bring World War I to an end.
|The Mona Lisa at Louvre
|David v/s Goliath at The Louvre
For our second day in France's capital city, we had pre-booked Louvre ticket from their official site (€15 + €5 for audio guide). This does expedite the entry process a little bit.
|The Wedding Feast at Cana
|Arc De Triomphe
For the afternoon, we had pre-booked tickets (€17) to the Eiffel tower. However, we made a quick metro stop at the Arc De Triomphe, before using the RER C metro train to head there. The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, and there is also a smaller replica of it, opposite the Louvre.
|From the Eiffel tower, second level
There are two lines to get to the top. One for security to get into the main tower base, and another one for the actual elevator to get to the second level. If you have the printed, pre-booked ticket, you skip both lines thereby saving you anywhere between 1 to 2 hours or even more during peak time.
|Palace of Justice, from Ile de la Cité
|Eiffel Tower from Notre Dame
For our last day in Paris, we has a late evening 9 pm flight to Nice, the small quaint town in the French Riviera. Morning, we had booked a City wonders tour of the Notre Dame and Ile de la Cité (City Center Island of Paris). We learnt about the history behind this beautiful little island - the center of Paris where the medieval city was founded by the Romans.
|The organ of Notre-Dame de Paris
|Gargoyles of Notre Dame
After a lesson from French Revolution, we now came to the highlight of the tour, Notre Dame. Begun in 1163 by Louis VII on a site that was originally sacred to the Romans, Notre Dame is one of the most magnificent examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most famous churches in the world. It is the heart of Paris and the point from which all distances in France are measured.
|Sacre Coeur as seen from Notre Dame
|Western Facade of the Notre Dame
The highlight of our tour was Skip the Line access to enter one of the cathedral towers. Climbing the winding
|Notre Dame - View from the top
Evening, we took the Air France flight to Nice from Paris's Charles De Gaule airport.
PS: The Charles De Gaule airport is located well outside the city, and public transit RER C is the cheapest and fastest way to get there directly. Although, make sure you buy tickets for the RER C separately, as it's not the usual Metro train, but a dedicated service to the airport.
|View from Mt Boron
|The Principality of Monaco
Next morning, we had book an all day tour to Éze and Monaco with a local company.
The tour which was basically comfortable transportation to Éze, Monaco and back included a Panoramic view over Nice from Mt. Boron, stop at Éze– a medieval perched village with its crafts shops and breathtaking panorama.
|Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
a letdown. We then went on to another country, Monaco. Second smallest in the world, after the Vatican. We toured Monte-Carlo and drove along the famous Monaco Grand Prix circuit. All this while the driver cum tour guide told us some interesting tidbits about Monaco as a country, and how difficult it was to get property and citizenship of Monaco; which is technically a "constitutional monarchy" to this day.
|Nice from Chateau overlook
|Luxury apartments in Monaco
Evening, we boarded our Vueling flight to Barcelona.
|The Sagrada Familia
|Gaudí designed the
columns to mirror trees and branches.
We started off our time in Barcelona by a visit to the Sagrada Familia. This is a large Roman Catholic church designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI. The construction has progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí's death. The church only relies on donations (tickets from visitors) for construction costs.
Six new towers will soon be added, bringing the total in the Basilica to 18 and—finishing the work begun by Gaudí.
|Plaça Sant Jaume -
Catolonia Flag can seen next to Spain's
|Cathedral of Santa Eulalia
|Eulalia of Barcelona
|View from the Nativity tower of Sagrada Familia
|View from Montjuic
|Casa mila by Gaudí
|Colonnaded pathway at Park Güell
This brought to end a wonderful introduction to Barcelona, until we return next time. Evening, we took the Vueling flight to Seville in the Andalucia region of Southern Spain.
|Inside the Alcazar Real
|Alcazar Real of Seville
zar. Visits to the Upper Chambers of the Royal Alcazars are managed by the Royal Alcazar of Seville Heritage Foundation; and are worth the extra €4.50 they charge. Although, they need to be reserved in advance with a specific time. The rooms represent Moorish architecture from the 15th century Muslim rule.
|Tomb of Christopher Columbus
|Cathedral from the Giralda (Bell tower)
|Seville Cathedral inside
The €9 ticket grants you access to also the Bell tower, which you can climb to get 360 degree views of Seville and the Iglesia del Salvador (Church), which we could not visit due to our limited time in the city.
The Seville Cathedral is the largest cathedral and the third-largest church in the world.
|Giralda (tower) of Seville Cathedral
|Plaza de España
PS: One of things Sevilla is famous for is the local Spanish Saffron (Azafran in Spanish). It's good quality and relatively cheap. There are also Flamengo dresses, scarfs and traditional Spanish hand fan, for women, to shop for.
|Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
|Bell tower (Minaret) of the Mosque
The train takes about 40-45 min, to reach Córdoba and the famous Córdoba mosque is a 15-20 minute walk from the train station, in the early mornings.
|Roman temple of Córdoba
|Bell tower as seen from a narrow alley
|Our group in Córdoba
We went back to Seville in the evening by the super-fast Renfe.
PS: Renfe allows same day changes without any fees.
|Duomo di Milan
|Arch of Peace
Although Rome is the political capital of Rome, Milan is the Financial one. Its business district hosts Italy's Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the largest national and international banks and companies. The city is a major world fashion and design capital, well known for several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week.
|Roof top - Milan Duomo
Lugano, Switzerland and Como, Italy
|Lugano in Switzerland
Next we headed to beautiful Bellagio to have lunch.
|Lake Como in Italy
This brought to end a hectic but the most enjoyable and fulfilling three weeks in some of the most amazing countries on the planet. Until next time, ciao, au revoir and adiós!